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Regional Interfaith Exchange, 27 - 29 December


Professionals of different fields and faiths shared on interesting ancient wisdoms and anecdotes, and scriptural and doctrinal references on ways to respond to a pandemic

Humanity Matters (HM)  presented the 3rd Temasek Foundation – Humanity Matters Faithfully ASEAN (FA21) from 27–29 December 2021.


The Opening Ceremony and Seminar entitled ‘Minding the Mystery – Disease X’, was held at the Furama City Centre Hotel, in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of Epidemic Preparedness.  For the opening seminar, four healthcare, wellness and environmental professionals of different faiths discussed on Disease X based on science, spirituality and social responsibility.  They shared and reflected on some of the challenges Singaporeans faced living with Covid-19, based on their observations in the course of their respective professions, especially the most vulnerable groups.  Additionally, they touched on interesting ancient wisdoms and anecdotes, and scriptural and doctrinal references on ways to respond to a pandemic, which are usefully relevant for future outbreaks.  


40 interfaith and youth participants from all 10 ASEAN countries are attending this year’s regional programme, and were joined by 60 local guests including diplomatic dignitaries from ASEAN and Asia, along with corporate, faith, community and youth leaders at the opening event.  Chairman of HM, Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, is hosting the 3-day FA21 programme.


In welcoming the partners, participants and guests, Ambassador Ong said, “We are more learned about the COVID-19 virus today than when it first appeared.  As we strive towards the endemic phase, it is imperative to reflect on how we have fared as individuals, groups, communities, societies and countries.  Given that this would not be the last and most menacing pandemic, the question is, what and how should we equip ourselves for the next major public health crisis?  And even as we focus on the next pandemic, there are other prevailing deadly diseases and dangers that threaten us and test our readiness and resilience.  This pandemic is seeing all of us becoming more reliant on the internet and digital applications, with much greater indulgence in the social media. We are now more exposed to online misinformation and manipulation.”


 The second day of FA21 shall feature a Distinguished Forum based on a new real-life film entitled ‘Radically Romantic’, which centres on online love scams and radicalisation.  This pandemic is seeing people becoming more reliant on the internet and digital applications, with much greater indulgence in the social media, making them more exposed to online misinformation and manipulation.


The FA programme was officially launched in December 2018 by President Halimah Yacob, who further graced its 2nd edition last December.  The regional programme is a less-than-ordinary ground-up initiative which brings interfaith practitioners and activists from the ASEAN nations to exchange worthy community-led initiatives, experiences, challenges and best practices relating to intercultural and interfaith engagement, cohesion and resilience.

“Religion is one of the main sources of motivation, inspiration and consolation.  Faith institutions, leaders, and communities therefore can help garner the goodness amongst their flocks by instilling the spirit of constructive social responsibility and cooperation. We need greater cohesion, collaboration and resilience to manage unforeseen challenges and crises,” added Ambassador Ong.

FA adopts a practical and constructive approach – focusing on prevailing issues and areas which could help better connect peoples within their local and regional neighbourhoods, in line with the ASEAN spirit for the promotion of regional peace.  The regional programme focuses on natural and basic commonalities to help enhance existing ties and trust between people of the region, to have real and candid exchanges at various levels to better acquaint, educate, understand, appreciate and accept each other’s differences to nurture friendship, fellowship and faith across the regional neighbourhood.  Given the challenges to regional social stability and security, it is imperative that society must constantly and creatively seek ways to bring people together onto common grounds for the common good through common senses.


The pioneer two batches of FA alumni have been further engaged, trained and collectively implemented joint regional community service projects in the Philippines (September 2019) and more recently in Singapore (September 2021), under the Faiths@Work (F@W) interfaith humanitarian programme, also supported by Temasek Foundation.

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